VIDEO: Les Cascades. Zach’s birthday water-park. Trévoux, France

I’ve previously written about some of our frustrations of being based in France and really how child un-friendly it can be.  One of our biggest struggles was knowing what to do with the kids on their birthdays as we found France so limiting.

Luckily for us, this water park in Trevoux came recommended by one of the life guards we met through AirBNB.

Les Cascades

Les cascades, which translates to ‘The Waterfalls’ is about 40 minutes north of Lyon in the small, riverside town of Trevoux. It is a municipal pool, attached to a camp site.

On 2.5 hectares of land, it offers several slides and pools as well as grass to sunbathe, picnic, ping-pong tables and volleyball nets. They also have a snack bar which sells chips and crisps etc and you can rent parasols and sun chairs as well.

Entrance

Entrance fee is €8.50 for adults and €5.50 for children with under 2’s being free.  They accept cash or card payments and in return you’re presented with wrist bands that are compulsory to wear.

The pools are open between the end of June and the beginning of September.

Despite asking for 2 adults and 3 children, we were charged for 3 adults and 2 children and when I complained I was told there was nothing they could do because the transaction had already completed. I paid by card rather than cash though.

Budgie smugglers & swimming caps

Unlike most French pools you’re not required to wear a swimming cap however you must not wear board shorts or burkinis or anything long!

Yes the French are obsessed with their rules and budgie smugglers!!

Security

The pools are patrolled by a range of life guards AND security men. We are not entirely sure why but somebody mentioned that there had been problems between arabic youths. Given how racism is prevalent in France though, this might not be true.

The pools and slides

There are a number of pools and slides all varying in depth, including a toboggan slide, a swirly slide, a deep pool, a water jet pool that pushes you round in a circle and a baby and small child pool.

Toboggan Slide

The toboggan slide was a big hit but not the favourite!

The twirly slide

I have no idea how many goes he had on this slide, in excess of twenty for sure!

 

And after much persuasion, even I had a go!!

 

I am not a fan of swimming pools but I think we can all assume we had a great time here and it was a fab way to spend the boy’s birthday 🙂  He was so tired by 4pm he had a little nap.

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24 things I’ve learnt from living in Lyon

Prior to moving to Lyon, we were warned by a French man from the north of France that Lyon and the south-east were particularly hostile to ‘incomers’. We laughed it off! We’re used to moving around, we’re used to adapting, we speak French, so… there’ll be no problem right!  WRONG! Here are just a few lessons I’ve learnt in my 18 months here:

1) Opening a bank account

One of the biggest conundrums we faced when first moving to Lyon was opening a bank account. You cannot open a bank account until you have a permanent address and of course you can’t get an address without a bank account.  We applied for MANY bank accounts and were rejected.  We had letters of attestation d’hébergement (proof we were living with my parents and we could open an account using their address) but still were refused. There is often no communication informing you of your rejection and it is up to you to chase the reasoning behind it, over the phone.

Eventually, after starting work, we were able to ask Richard’s company to assist us and through their bank we were able to open a bank account with BNP but it still wasn’t an easy process and we were required to have an address to send our paperwork! Finally we had a bank account nearly three months after first arriving in France.

Although you are legally obliged to collect a bank card from the bank, the PIN will be sent by snail mail. You will also be sent a client number in a separate letter. Should you wish to then use internet banking, a separate ‘secret code’ will then be sent by snail mail too. Any change of details done online, such as new address or new mobile phone number will also require a new ‘secret code’ which will be sent via post. Expect to wait up to SEVEN days for your ‘secret codes’.

If you wish to set up transfer requests, yup, you guessed it, you’ll have to wait for another new code!!

Cancelling direct debits from your bank account is illegal in France.  If you have a direct debit set up, you must cancel it with the company and just cross your fingers that they remember or do it.

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2) The ‘dossier’ is the bible!!

The dossier is something that people HOARD from the moment they’re born. It comprises of everything from birth certificates to school reports, from car insurance (age 17 to current day) to electricity bills. If you stay in French people’s houses, you will soon realise that they dedicate entire shelves and bookcases to collecting these pieces of paper. The French life revolves around ‘proof’ and providing proof. It is most frustrating but you will find that you need a dossier almost everywhere you go and whatever you apply for.

dossier-site3) C’est compliqué

You will hear this expression at least once in every conversation. It absolutely drives me mad!! Life is made unnecessarily complicated in France by the sheer amount of frustrating and needless bureaucracy that engulfs everything.  This ranges from renting a house to playing rugby! Whilst the French themselves complain about, no one ever instigates change.

‘Ooohh, c’est compliqué’ is something you’ll hear all the time.

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4) Bureaucracy may drive you mad

It took us FIFTEEN hours of queuing to register the car into our names. We still haven’t sorted out child benefit and our car insurance insist we haven’t sent our ‘dossier’ despite sending it three times. Every document you could ever possibly think of has to be sent by recorded delivery and under no circumstances should anything be emailed.

Yes, people may joke about bureaucracy in France but it really isn’t a joke. It takes up a lot of time, it costs a lot of money and whilst Lyonnaise people may complain about it they’ll never actually stand against it.

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5) Buying a car

Second hand cars are extortionately expensive (more expensive than in Australia!). If you’re planning on spending a few years in France, it might be worth buying a new car on a payment scheme.

When buying a car you’ll also need to fill out lots of forms!! That should come as no surprise, so here’s a list:

  1. A completed certificat d’immatriculation. Form Cerfa 13750*04 
  2. A certificat de situation administrative provided by the seller
  3. A certificat de cession (certificate of transfer and document of sale) from the previous owner
  4. The registration document of the previous owner, marked in indelible ink “Vendu le...” or “Cede le…” with the date of the sale and signature of the previous owner
  5. If the car is more than four years old, a Contrôle technique, no older than six months.

 

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6) Insuring your car

I have discovered that this is notoriously difficult in fact I have encountered French people who have NEVER changed car insurers because they’re so afraid of not having the correct documentation.

We are onto our third insurer in just over a year because we cannot provide all of the necessary documentation and because of this our insurance has been cancelled. We’re now in the position where we cannot insure our car!

I’m taking a deep breath for this one!

When you buy car insurance in France you are required to provide a number of documents. These include (but isn’t limited to): driving licence of all drivers, la carte grise (this says we own the car), control technique (MOT), proof of no claims, proof of insurance for last ten years and RIB (Proof of bank account to set up direct debit). Why? I’ve no idea. We also have to provide detailed accounts of why/if we have any gaps in our insurance history.

If your dossier is accepted, you will sent a ‘contrat d’assurance’ to sign and return to them.

 

Le contrat d'assurance

7) Roundabouts confuse them, reversing can be a no-go!

Driving in Lyon is HOSTILE.  Some of the worst I’ve encountered in the world. Even Tunisian and Italian driving was better!!

Do not expect them to indicate; if they do it tends to mean they’ll just pull out. Safe stopping distance doesn’t exist and tail-gating is really common.  When approaching a roundabout, just because a car is in the left hand lane doesn’t mean it’s actually turning left. It could go right and carve you up. If a car is indicating right, it could go left.

Do not cross the road if a car is approaching. Locals tend to use their cars as battering rams. If you’re cycling you might expect to be deliberately rammed!! There is even less respect for cyclists than pedestrians.

Parking in Lyon is dreadful. Too many cars and not enough parking spaces. Due to this the standard of parking is also dreadful. Cars will force themselves into spots that are too small and in the process damage two other cars. It is blatantly obvious they have caused the damage but they will shout and pontificate that it wasn’t them – that is if they are challenged.

I’m not even going to start on reversing lol.

Living Lyon
Living Lyon

8) Conditioned to conform

From birth the French are conditioned to conform. It is thoroughly depressing to watch. It starts at ‘Ecole Maternelle’ where up to the age of SIX children are expected to have a sleep in the afternoons for an hour!! This is not negotiable by the way.

Aside from Paris, which is like a totally different country in comparison to France, people are encouraged to behave like sheep. I have yet to see a French emo or someone with dyed green hair. Looking different just doesn’t happen and isn’t encouraged. Earlier this year I shaved off half the side of my hair and dyed the stubble pink. You would have thought I was a martian with people stopping in the middle of the supermarket to stare at me (with their mouths wide open).

Playing it Safe should be the moto for living here in France. It’s very boring and really quite oppressive. You mustn’t dare to be different!! So follow the rules or else, yeh…

Living Lyon
Living Lyon

9) People fall into two categories; dominant or weak

The Lyonnaise appear to fall into two categories of people; either dominant or weak. Speaking to other expats they confirm they suspicions of this and suggest that unless you’re one of these categories you do not fall into their ‘rules’ and will confuse them.

If you’re of the weaker variety, you can expect to be shouted at. You must always ask your friends’ opinions and once done so, you must adhere to the advice you’ve been given.  Are you confused yet? Yes, so was I. Apparently this is the way friendships work here.  They cannot understand, if you’re facing a dilemma, why you wouldn’t consult your friends and follow their suggestions.

Independence is a sin and freethinking is not encouraged.

10) The Lyonaise are superior (and hostile)!

From an early age children in France are told that their language is the hardest in the world to learn, that their education system is the best in the world and when they have conquered both (Baccalaureate) they are superior to… well, everything!

It is therefore of no surprise that their egos enter the room before they do and that no matter how right you are, you’ll always be wrong.

I have given up arguing with the man from ‘La poste’ that my parcels are not wrapped correctly or Bouygues Telecom that really they should process my request to upgrade my phone plan on the day I requested it, rather than 20 days later. The conversation always goes ‘Well, let me tell you Mrs P how it works here’. It’s at this point I sigh and roll my eyes.

There are some exceptions to this rule however! Women aged over 70 tend to be friendly and smiley. I’ve had some nice conversations in supermarkets with women over 70. Adults aged between 20 and 30 years seem to be less French and more open to change and difference.

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11) For this reason, your French will always be terrible

As a tourist you will be complimented on your French. This is because as a tourist you serve a purpose. Your purpose as a tourist is to come, compliment them on how wonderful their stagnating country is, pay lots of money for mediocre food, line the pockets of vineyard owners and then LEAVE. You see, as a tourist you’re of no threat and the French can carry on feeling superior however if you choose to live here, it will change.

Your French will never be good enough regardless of how much they complimented you as a tourist. Oh the irony! They will pull faces as you speak, pretending they cannot possibly understand anything you’re saying and then rudely insist on either speaking English or finding somebody to translate.

If you have a particularly foreign sounding surname and even if you spell it our for them in perfect French, they may take umbridge at you and yes, they may even laugh in your face! More frustratingly is when they hang up on you, telling you that you cannot possibly have that surname because it doesn’t make sense.

Expect no mercy and if you’re of coloured skin or look the slightest bit Arabic they might not even bother hearing you.

12) Life happens at a slower rate

No electricity?  No internet? No home? No rush…. It is all part of their plan to be in control.

Don’t expect them to care or even do anything about it.  It could be fixed in 3 weeks. Alternatively you could still be waiting 3 months later. My parents had no internet for THREE months and now it has been reinstated the company cannot reimburse them in one lump sum, no they must do it in monthly payments of 7.80 euros.. or something, because those are the rules!

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13) Renting property

Renting a house in Lyon has been the most frustrating and demeaning experience of our lives.  It’s been so bad I just don’t know where to start.

Lyon housing is expensive. It’s also pretty terrible however due to housing shortages landlords have no inclination to better their properties. The French are also eternally grateful for even getting on the housing ladder (even rental) that they will NEVER complain. This is because in order to move into a rental, you are required to put the equivalent of three months rent down in advance. This comprises; one month rent, one month deposit and the estate agent fees.

Many houses don’t come with kitchens; you have to provide your own. Some might not come with any lights or light fittings and you will be responsible for those. The electrical wiring will no doubt be terrible, as it has been in all of the houses we’ve ever frequented! You may have a wall with eight light switches on it. One may work or none of them will. This is normal lol.

Never trust the Regie. Regie is another word for immobilier or estate agent. They may pretend to be your friend, in the beginning, but if you’re foreign they will undoubtedly rip you off. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at Google and how many people have had their bonds stolen from them.

Photograph everything. Never rely on word of mouth. If something is agreed verbally, ALWAYS email afterwards with an exchange of what has occurred and always keep a copy of the email. remember how I said the ‘dossier’ was GOD. This is where it will help save your arse. Print those emails and hoard them like your life depends on it.

The process of having a bond removed from you is very easy. So easy, they don’t even have to give you notice they’ve taken it or provide proof. The process of trying to retrieve your bond is VERY difficult and time consuming. It requires lots of letters giving warnings and threats, all sent by registered post. These letters MUST follow a guideline, so best print one from the internet and amend it.

14) Education is bleak

Our experience of schools has been strict, uncompromising and hostile and I will endeavour to explain why in a not too long winded way!

Ecolle Maternelle:

Children, like in many other countries, start the education process at the age of three.  However unlike the wonderfully bright, colourful and welcoming nurseries/pre-schools/kindies we’ve been used to, we found ecolle maternelle to be drab, uninteresting, uninspiring and lacking in any creativity necessary for children’s brains.

Registering your child for ecolle maternelle is easy IF your child is aged 5-6 because it is compulsory for the Mairie to provide a place.  If your child is younger s/he may be placed on a wait list. Ecolle maternelle is split into three age groups: petit section for 3-4 yr olds, moyen section for 4-5 yr olds and grand section for 5-6 yr olds. The school my youngest daughter attended had mixed classes of the top two age groups – goodness knows why – and she hated it. There was virtually no arts or crafts, she did painting once in five months, testing was frequent and naps in the afternoon were ENFORCED! Every child, even those aged SIX, was forced to have a nap in the afternoon…. If they stayed for the afternoon session. One way of circumnavigating this is to remove your child for lunch and not take them back in the afternoon.

Depending on the ecolle maternelle, you may or may not be allowed past the gate and your presence in the classroom (which is full of rows of desks) is not required!!

Primary School:  Registering your child for primary school is relatively easy. You will need to make an appointment with the Dept of Education at the local mairie (town hall) and provide documentation such as a the child’s birth certificate, proof of address, a medical certificate saying they’re ‘apt for school’ (some schools waive this) and vaccination information. They’ll ask you to provide stuff like the ‘carnet de santé’ – which foreigners are NOT allocated. They know this but for some reason they still ask for it.

Primary schools do not allow parents inside the school gates. This was our biggest shock. The child is left at the gates and from that moment on, the teacher (who has a job for life regardless of ability or personality) is in control and the child will know his/her place. Parents are NOT allowed to volunteer in schools, parents are even discouraged from helping their children with their homework on the basis that they will “confuse the child”, the teacher’s word is final and if your child is struggling it is just tough shit! No attempt will be made to help your child integrate and if he/she is lonely then they should change, learn French quicker or just get used to it. If your child is crying they will probably be ignored.

Grammar is highly prioritised over everything, rote learning is favoured highly, there is no art or anything creative and no sport. All children must learn to write in EXACTLY the same way and with a fountain pen.   Teachers teach exactly what the Dept of Education sends them – no more, no less. It is common place for teachers to humiliate children by shouting, ridiculing or ripping out work and throwing it in the bin. The curriculum is not fun and small children will spend extended periods of time, sitting down and being quiet.

ICT is not taught in primary schools and not encouraged by teachers – or certainly not the three schools our three children attended. When we first attended our eight year old son’s class induction, we were informed by the teacher that she did not allow any electronics in her classroom and that as parents we should ban them at home. She said “I immediately know the children who are allowed screen time because their behaviour in the classroom is not appropriate“. The word of the teacher here is final and I was shocked to see many parents nodding their heads and agreeing with her!!

Uniformed learning is key to the French system; a child from the south of France will be studying exactly the same thing at approximately the same time as his or her counterpart in the north of France.

Lunch is taken seriously and is a two hour affair comprising of two courses. Of course being vegan is just fussiness and they won’t accommodate such requests unless accompanied by a Dr’s letter. This is fine if your child has an actual illness that requires a specific diet however I have yet to find a Dr who will sign us a letter about veganism. This meant our children couldn’t have lunch in school and required me collecting them and feeding them at home.

Secondary school:

Registering a child for secondary school is a little more complex. First you must ring the school, explain that your child is foreign at which point they’ll probably say ‘Ooh c’est compliqué’ and give you a number to ring for ‘a test’. Said child CANNOT start school without this test as they cannot possibly know what class to put the child in. Yeh, go figure!!  The test is frequently held miles away from the actual school you want the child to attend and is just another opportunity for them to belittle you and prove that the child is not capable within their complex education system and that said child will have to be moved down a year and attend a special school (often the one the testers teach at). This is bullshit and it’s all financially motivated.  It may take weeks to sit the test and it’ll definitely take weeks to have a decision. In the end, after many arguments and shouting matches and after two letters of complaint, our eldest child was finally allocated a place (in the correct age group) at our local school. She did however start over a month after term had started.

One of our daughter’s complaints about school was that it was very boring. Although one class of art is taught per week, it was very prescribed, not relevant to children/teenagers and not at all interesting.  Physical Education is taught but this comprises of either frisbee, cross county or gymnastics. Humiliation is high from both teachers and other pupils and bullying is almost encouraged by teachers. Foreign children should learn their place and belittling them is clearly the way to achieve it.

Subjects are intensely taught, not fun or engaging and there is always a right answer. Discussion and debate are frowned upon and this creates a life-long need to be told the ‘right answer’. Homework becomes a very serious affair and tests are rampant. The marking is mechanically oppressive. Marking is out of 20, 10 is a pass and 14 is a good grade.  20 is virtually non-existent except for maths. Test marks become a parental obsession and repeating a year is common. About 30% of children will repeat a year.

Secondary school children are NOT allowed to leave the school grounds without the permission of their parents. You’d have thought this would be difficult to manage however French schools have found an effective way! Yes, they build ten foot high perimeter fences with one gate AND employ a man whose sole job it is to police the gate. Students are given a day-to-day book (carnet de correspondence) to carry around with them which also details their exact timetable for the year, has a photo of the student on it and also has the parents details and whether permission has been granted. Before leaving, students present this book to ‘the gate man’ and he allows them out.

I have found schools in Lyon to be the most unwelcoming, cold (literally freezing) and heartless places. Many secondary schools do not have heating, are built with grey concrete and look like prisons. Everything I have learnt about psychology and children’s learning is juxtaposed by the French model. It is very sad to see. It is of little wonder that most young people’s aspirations revolve around leaving France. They are curtailed and micro-controlled at every opportunity.

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15) Parenting

I guess this is the subject which is going to cause most friction and I’m going to be very honest. I do not like French parenting. I have found that it varies from one extreme to another; grossly neglectful and indulgent in the early years to totally micromanaged and punitive from primary onwards. Children are expected to behave like mini adults – frequently seen but never heard. Children do not speak out of turn, they do not get dirty and they certainly do not throw food. If you’re interested in understanding more, I suggest you read ‘French children don’t throw food – Pamlea Druckerman’.

I don’t necessarily agree with her views, in fact I am sick of the book being thrown at me by Lyonnaise people as a triumphant example of how wonderful they are, however it does go some way to explaining French parenting. It does nothing but highlight my views that French society is akin to sheep; being exactly the same!

If I was to write a book now about my experience of French parenting, I would probably entitle it ‘French children never get dirty’.

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16) Overly medicalised

The over-medicalisation of people doesn’t just relate to Lyon but to the entirety of France. The moment you are ill, you are expected to see a doctor and get a sick note. Bizarre, right!? What genuinely ill person wants to go and sit in a Dr’s surgery and get a sick note? Well, that’s what you have to do otherwise you won’t get paid for missing work. Yup, the first day you’re ill from work you are expected to provide a sick note.

France has the highest consumption of antibiotics in Europe and we have heard stories from other ex-pats where the French will demand antiobiotics on the first day that they’re ill.

You are also expected to acquire a medical certificate for your child to attend school and sports clubs. Why, you might ask? I’m not sure lol but if your child wants to attend an after-school sports club, s/he MUST have this certificate.

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17) Ballet is damaging for under 6’s.

Under 6’s are NOT allowed to do ballet in Lyon. Why? Apparently it’s damaging. Even though our daughter did ballet at 3, she wasn’t allowed to pursue it here until she had left ecolle maternelle.

18) Racism is high in Lyon

As I’m sure you’re aware over the recent news of the burkini, racism in France is HUGE! It’s much more overt than it used to be and it’s institutional throughout.

I have witnessed unprovoked French people spitting at Arabic women, I’ve seen unprovoked verbal abuse from the French towards Arabic families with young children but most frequently, I see French men humiliate young teenage girls who wear some form of traditional clothing. This could be anything from long sleeved tops to long skirts, not necessarily the hijab or the al-almira. It is awful to watch and I have frequently called out men for being racist in supermarkets and shopping malls.  I am of the belief that their behaviour is deliberately intimidating and humiliating and that it needs to be challenged.

There are many graffiti signs throughout Lyon saying “Chassons les islamistes” (hunt the Islamists) which remain on walls. Too frequently in France nothing is challenged, so it is all the more important to bring change.

Racism is institutional in France. By this I mean that it extends to Government agencies from local mairies to prefactures and the gendarmes/police. It is is horrible to witness!

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19) Policing is brutal

French police resort to violence very quickly and often unprovoked. It is horrendous to see.

Lyon hosted Euro 2016 recently and there was frequently tear gas used, unnecessarily, and when children and families were present. I am not denying there wasn’t trouble however French police do nothing but provoke.

Living Lyon
Living Lyon

20) Being a vegan is hard

If you’re interested in what it’s like to be a vegan in Lyon visit this post however I will say that being a food conscious vegan here is incredibly difficult.  Supermarkets are getting better, for example they’ll sell almond or rice milks but frequently they have added sugar and e-numbers. I have had to wait two weeks before finding cashew nuts that haven’t been grilled or salted and finding xylitol was a never until September 2016! Coconut oil it starting to be sold in a select few supermarkets but again they’re small jars and expensive.

Yes, there are magasins bio (organic shops) however they’re very expensive and frequently located out of town. It can be hit and miss as to what products you find.  Choice is frequently limited and oh, did I mention they were expensive?

I find that awareness around food in France is low, meat and dairy consumption is very high and animal cruelty is high. Restaurants frequently never offer a vegetarian option and are reluctant to change.

living lyon

21) NO entrepreneurial culture

France (according to France) was recently awarded ‘best entrepreneurial’ country. I forget which French newspaper I read that in because my eyes were already rolling in disgust. Being independent is a personality flaw here so of course setting up your own business is incredibly challenging.

What I have found is that people tend to be more willing to buy established but smaller businesses.

22) La Poste

Snail mail is pretty terrible here.  It is quicker for me to have a private courier deliver something from England than it is to use French mail from Paris.

Next day delivery does not exist and theft is high!! It is best to use private couriers than La Poste if you want your item to actually arrive.

If your name is not printed legibly on your post box, your item will be returned.  Letter boxes in front doors are banned here. Instead your mail box should be one pre-approved by La Poste and should be located at the front of house, on the road. It should be between 80cm-150cm high and should not require ‘le facteur‘ (postman) to get off his bike.

living lyon
Living Lyon

23) Internet

Internet is very hit and miss in Lyon. You can get fibre in some areas BUT only if cables have been laid. We discovered that according to the maps, we should be able to get fibre but of course no cables had been laid in our areas. We were also limited by choice as only two companies provided phone and internet in our area.

living lyon

24) People are still frightened of the internet

When my husband told me this I have to confess that I laughed. I said to him ‘but these are people close to retirement right?’. Nope! People in their 30s and 40s!

My husband has been tasked with digitilising his company. His aim is to get each department on LinkedIn. You would have thought this was easy, after all those of us in the digital world have been using LinkedIn for, what, 5 years? But no! He tells me that people in his company are so frightened of using LinkedIn that they won’t use their real names and won’t post updates.

living lyon
Living Lyon

 

So, what does all this mean? Am I suggesting that you shouldn’t come and live in France? No! Not at all. This post was written as a means to spread awareness that life in France isn’t all vineyards and olives. No amount of research can prepare you for life in another country but I hope that this post goes some way to highlighting some of the problems we have encountered.

 

Being Vegan in Lyon

Lyon is the self-described French city of gastronomy. I say self-described because from my perspective, unless you like sausages, it isn’t and if you’re vegetarian or even vegan, you’re going to be a bit short of choices! Let me explain why:

Lunch is serious business!

Lunch here is taken VERY seriously. I mean really seriously. You’re given a two hour lunch break and you’re expected to leave the building! Coming via Australia, this was a bit of a mystery to us. We’d got used to having a big and early breakfast, meeting up quickly at late elevenses for a coffee and then leaving work slightly early so we could catch the sun’s rays before bed.  Working in the UK, lunch was a poor affair whilst sat at your desk.  Well, not here!!

It is very common for people to eat out for lunch and Lyon is densely populated with restaurants. It has 1 restaurant for every 294 people. If you live in the 2nd arrondisement of Lyon, you’ll fare even better with 1 restaurant for every 137 people! This is great news…. if you’re a meat eater and if you want to eat between 12-2pm. Sadly not such good news if you’re not.

Les formules

You see, French restaurants do these great things called ‘Formule‘; an inexpensive, set menu. The cheaper the menu the less choice you’ll get but sometimes for 15 euros you’ll get a set 3 course meal. For example, a starter (entrée) of foie gras, with a main dish (plat) of meat and then dessert (dessert) chocolate mousse or a plate of cheese.  Relatively cheap and simple but with no choice. You eat what you’re given.

I first started visiting France 25 years ago as a vegetarian. People had never heard of this before and of course whenever we ate out, I had to ask the chef for something else because there were no veggie options. It was great for my French and frequently the chefs were so excited to make me something not on the menu, however I’d say that there’s been virtually no progress since and in fact in Lyon they are positively hostile and resistant to any type of change. I have found no vegetarian option on any menus here and eating out has been a cauchemare (nightmare) for us.

Well that was until we caught wind of some vegetarian restaurants in Lyon!

Being vegan in Lyon is hard…. but not impossible!

  1. Toutes les couleurs – Lyon 1

Toutes les couleurs in based on the outskirts of the 1st arondissement of Lyon. There is virtually no parking as it is all street parking. Nearby parking and metro stations  of the Croix Rousse & Croix Paquet are not very close, and it’s situated on quite a high hill, but don’t worry because the walk makes it all the more worth while!  I think the restaurant itself can cater for non-able bodied needs but it is worth booking ahead to make sure.

What a beautiful little restaurant this is. Not only is it vegan it’s also bio (organic) and seasonal. Four of us ate a 2 course lunch each with drinks for 70 euros!!
The food was delicious. Fresh, local, seasonal and just divine!  For starter we had white asparagus soup, thai salad with wasabi jelly and a grain frisée. For main dish we had a huge sharing plate of raw vegetables, sprouted beans and peas, a hot spicy beetroot dish with brown rice and a sauerkraut type dish.  I forget exactly what we ate, which is terrible, but it was very tasty and fresh!

All the photos were taken with my phone, so please excuse the quality! I mentioned in a previous post how reluctant I am to take my camera out with me. As I was photographing our meals with my phone, the French people behind us (who were grossly untactful in true French form) started nudging each other and saying “Look she’s taking photos” “She’s taking photos of the food”, followed by the obligatory stares. This is why I don’t take my camera out with me!

You’ll need to check the opening times here because they are often only open for lunch and don’t open Sundays or Mondays. What I particularly like about this restaurant is that you have access to the kitchens, the chefs and you can see exactly what is going on. They’re happy to talk to you and answer your questions.  We had a vegetable on our sharing plate that I just couldn’t place. It was round, thinly sliced and yellow… it turns out it was “navet jaune” yellow turnip. I would never have guessed that.

  • Star rating 9/10
  • Would I recommend it to others? YES!!
  • Would I go again? Definitely!

Please excuse the grain in the photos, these were taken with my phone!

Vegan in lyon

Vegan in lyon

Vegan in lyon

Vegan in lyon

Vegan in lyon

  • 2. Color Vegan, Lyon 4

Color Vegan is a vegan pizza take-out based in the beautiful district of the Croix-Rousse. The 4th arondissement of Lyon is famous for its Silk Weavers and it’s hills!  Color Vegan is situated near the theatre and there is a car park in the square behind the shop, a very short distance away.

Color Vegan offers a take-out facility as well as a small area to dine in. The people working there are very friendly and they are multi-lingual. It prides itself on using only organic produce however I have some queries about this. One of the biggest hurdles vegans face (daily) is that most of us have absolutely no desire to eat anything that looks like meat. So, not only are meat and cheese substitutes unnecessary but they’re usually full of chemicals too. Just because it is vegan does NOT mean that it’s healthy. All the pizzas in Color Vegan contain some sort of meat and cheese substitute and as a result our pizzas tasted fake and plasticy.

For those of you who don’t know as a family we are refined sugar free, chemical free, processed free and meat free. I (Emma) am vegan, whilst Richard and the kids still eat farm raised eggs and mozzarella. We gave up sugar and chemicals/processed food nearly three years ago so it’s very easy for us to taste them in our food now.

We ordered three pizzas; rousse – ham substitute & mushroom, green – green lentil and rouge –red pepper.  The rousse smelled and tasted awful, almost like plastic. Our son ate one piece and proclaimed he felt so sick he couldn’t eat any more. He disappeared a short time later to the bathroom and then to his bed. The green had no taste what-so-ever. Bland wouldn’t even cover it. I couldn’t even taste the tomato base. The rouge was mediocre. You could taste the pepper but that was it.  The best part about the pizza was the whole, black olives dotted around.

All in all we were very disappointed and I HATE wasting food but we threw the majority of ours out. Three out of five of us felt really sick and went to bed early. I woke up with a terrible headache the next morning.

  • Star rating – 5/10
  • Would I recommend it to others? No.
  • Would I go again? No.
Vegan in lyon
Being vegan in Lyon

vegan lyon

vegan lyon

Vegan in lyon
Vegan pizza from Color Vegan

vegan lyon

 

  • 3. Cafe Vert – Lyon 5

Cafe Vert is a teeny tiny little cafe in the Old Town of Lyon. Blink and you may miss it! It is next to Johnny’s Irish Pub. It is on the outskirts of the 5th and not one that you’d probably walk past without intention.

Vegan in lyon

I found that it has a very limited menu comprising mostly of smoothies and soup and opening hours to match! However other people have clearly eaten full meals here and have photos to prove it, so I am unsure if you have to book to eat or not?

I took my children one afternoon, I guess they were shutting shortly as smoothies were limited to a choice of three. They were fresh were not blended enough and were lumpy. I think they were 6 euros each.

  • Star rating – 6/10
  • Would I recommend it to others? Possibly.
  • Would I go again? No.

 

  • 4. Le Jardin Interieur – Croix Rousse Lyon 4.

This is a vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant with pescetarian choices too.

Le jardin interieur is tucked into a little back street in the 4th arrondisment of Lyon.  There is some parking locally on the streets but it’s very limited and you must pay 4 euros per 3 hours. It is much easier to catch the metro to the Croix Rousse and walk about 4 minutes.

Lyon’s 4th district is vibrant and sassy. It has an awesome market most days of the week, great shops and a spirited feel to it.

We visited le jardin interieur (French for inside garden) on a Saturday. It’s a small restaurant that can host about 30-40 people with upstairs and downstairs areas. They also have a children’s corner – which is very unusual for French restaurants. The restaurant is in a old, stone building but has a more modern feel with flowers and plants painted on the wall.  We were lucky to meet the owner who was working that day. She was helpful and explained items on the menu that we didn’t understand but she spoke very quickly and just repeated the same words again. I would suggest if your French is not great that you take an online translator.  They have tried to make the dishes sound more appertising by giving them unusual names. For example a soup was described as ‘a velvet of….’.

The menu is hand written for the day with icons for whether it is vegetarian, pescetarian or vegan. Make sure you do tell the staff that you’re vegan (vegetalliene) as there are quite a few dishes that contain butter, milk and cheese.

vegan lyon
The menu the day we visited.

All the photos were taken with my phone, so please excuse the quality! I mentioned in a previous post how reluctant I am to take my camera out with me. This restaurant was no different and when people saw me taking photos, they turned around and stared at me.

We started with a sharing plate which included deep fried tofu, tapenade on toast, grated carrot and beetroot, cow’s cheese on bread, quinoa and hommous.

Lyon vegan
Sharing plate for starters.

The main dishes were a good size but served on very old and mismatching plates and many had little cracks or chips.  My husband seemed to think that this was deliberate, in order to give it a more rustic and authentic feel. It was a bit strange. All the dishes were nice and tasty, clearly freshly made. I had a beetroot burger which was delicious. I wasn’t so impressed with the kids tofu pie but they ate it.

Lyon vegan
Parmentier of tofu and pureed potato and butternut squash
Lyon vegan
Beetroot ‘steak’ with accompanying veg.

The kids had dessert of vegetarian chocolate fondant and vegan panna cotta.

Chocolate fondant
Nice presentation for the kids’ dessert.
Vegan in lyon
Vegan panna cotta with raspberry coulis.
Vegan in lyon
Pretty flowers for the chocolate fondant.

The service was good but they forgot my husband’s ‘summer cherry beer’ and there was mistake with our order – which could have been my French!

The cost was expensive. It came to 117 euros which for lunch is very excessive but the food was nice. Luckily we paid with our restaurant tickets. PHEW!!

  • Star rating 8/10
  • Would I recommend it to others? Yes.
  • Would I go again? Yes but I’d only eat one dish.

Vieux Lyon; churches & cobbled streets

One sunny afternoon last year, whilst we were staying in the 1st,  we decided to have a saunter over to Vieux Lyon. I’d heard that it’s rambling, narrow cobbled streets were something magnificent and that it had a huge number of quaint restaurants tucked into tiny buildings. It was true! It’s a lovely area, many restaurants are open on a Sunday (very unusual here!!) and there’s plenty to see and do. Even if you just pop over for a walk around the streets, you’ll not be disappointed.

A small selection of these photos come from my camera but the majority from my phone.  I have never felt entirely comfortable walking around Lyon with my camera, I often get frequent stares and the French people will point, so it is easier to use my phone.

Vieux Lyon

Le quartier de Vieux Lyon, or ‘Old Lyon’ as it is known in English, is situated in Lyon’s 5th arrondissement and is one of France’s most extensive Renaissance neighbourhoods. It comprises four specific areas; Saint Jean, Saint Paul, Saint Georges and then the hill of Fourviere  – all home to Christian-Catholic establishments! If you’re not interested in religion, don’t worry neither are we, however they make for a spectacular view and you can’t help be astounded by the scale of the architecture and craftsmanship of work.

Catholicism in particular does not sit comfortably with me. I find the wealth of the Catholic Church to be wholly hypocritical and quite grotesque and when you look around the Basilica of Fourviere, you will see a huge amount of gold. It makes me feel really uneasy that given the world’s problems around inequality, the Catholic Church seems to laud its wealth. It just doesn’t sit well with me, but this is the last I’ll say about it.

Vieux Lyon itself comprises:

The Saint Jean quarter, houses the Cathedral of St Jean and is a good example of Gothic architecture.

The Saint-Paul section was made famous during the 15th and 16th centuries by rich Italian banker-merchants who made the city wealthy. The Saint Paul church with its Romanesque lantern tower and its spectacular spire mark the section’s northern extremity. I didn’t manage to visit this section of vieux lyon so there’s no photos.

Lyon has a long history with silk weavers and The Saint Georges quarter was originally the home of silk weavers in the 16th century prior to their move to The Croix Rousse (4th arrondissement) in the 19th century. It is home to Saint Georges church, shown in the photo below.

Crossing over the bridge

We crossed from the 1st arrondissement on foot over the Passerelle bridge which leads directly to Saint George’s church. A church has been located in this spot since 550AD but was destroyed in 732 by the Saracens. It was rebuilt in 802 and since then it’s history includes  a hay barn. a military hospital and a national property. The current church was rebuilt in 1845 by architect Pierre Bossan, who has described it as his ‘youthful mistake’. If only my youthful mistakes were of such grandeur!!

Sadly the church appears to be locked up during the day and we couldn’t gain entry.

 

 

vieux lyon
Passerelle Saint-Georges that traverses the River Saone, Lyon with the Basilica of Fourviere on the hill.

Saint George

Walking through the old streets is delightful. The whole area is seeped in history, although apparently it was nearly derelict in the 1960s and was pretty much re-built. The cobbled pathways, the narrowness of the lanes, the buildings looming overhead and the wooden doors make for a great afternoon’s jaunt!

 

www.thelighthouseunderthestars.com

From our perspective St Georges offers a more authentically French area with traditional restaurants and food. Saint George is more quaint and rustic area in comparison to Saint Jean which caters more for the tourist with ice cream take-outs and cosmopolitan cafes.

 

Saint George plays host to the metro station ‘Vieux Lyon’ which will take you up to the hill of Fourviere in a funicular rail way! I think the cost was 1.80 euros but I’m not sure. Make sure you have cash or bank card though. There are automated machines to purchase your ticket and they operate in a number of languages.

It is only a short journey but it does save you walking up some very steep steps!

Funicular railway
www.thelighthouseunderthestars.com
Funicular railway

 

Saint Jean

Saint Jean is a Roman Catholic Cathedral dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It is the current seat of the Archbishop of Lyon. It is situated in the main place of the Quartier Saint Jean.  The following photos were taken using my phone, so please excuse the quality!

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www.thelighthouseunderthestars.com
Saint Jean interior windows.

At the back of the Cathedral are the Archaeological gardens. You’re free to walk around the remains as you wish.

gardens

The buildings vary in colour and style and are seriously impressive. It must be amazing to live in them!

 

www.thelighthouseunderthestars.com
Buildings in the Saint Jean Quartier.

 

www.thelighthouseunderthestars.com
Buildings in St Jean
Buildings around St Jean

tower

 

There are lots of lovely little cafes and restaurants littered around the around although on a Sunday not all are open. The cafes tend to cater for more drinks and crepes/gauffres, pancakes and waffles with a selection of teas and ice-creams (glaces). Whilst many of the restaurants are tucked into buildings, most of the cafes open up into the sunshine. It is not unpleasant to sit in the sunshine and drink tea 🙂

A cup of ‘Mate’ tea from South America with a slice of honey bread.

Restaurant tucked away

 

Fourviere

The hill of Fourviere, also known as the praying hill, sits high overlooking Lyon. Whilst you can drive, parking is extremely limited. It is much better to walk up past the roman ampitheatre (dated 15BC) or catch the funicular train.

 

1280px-Lyon-Basilique-de-Fourvières

The view from Fourviere Hill is fanastic and on a good day you can see right across to The Alps of Chamonix. Below is a phone shot which shows the river Saone, the Cathedral of Saint Jean as well as much of the city.

 

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Fourviere Hill is home to the Catholic Basilica of the Notre Dame of Fourviere (Basilique de Fourvière). Built in the late 1800s it is described as a ‘minor basilica’ – quite ironical really given its size!  Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and each December 8th Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city with the Fête des Lumières – Festival of Lights.

 

It is HUGE!

The Basilica is IMMENSE in scale. It’s just huge. You walk in, in awe and wonder at how a building can be so big and then you realise there’s a whole other floor underneath!! Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design.

basilica inside

The Basilica has four main towers and a bell-tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary.

tower

 

Apparently, the basilica has acquired the local nickname of “the upside-down elephant”, because the building looks like the body of an elephant and the four towers look like its legs. What do you think? No matter how hard I look at it, I cannot see the elephant!! Can you?

01._Basilique_Notre_dame_de_Fourvière_avril_2011 copy